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BANDITS ECTS 2002 Report

The first appointment of this year’s ECTS took us over to see GRIN and their action title BANDITS on the PC. Over the past few weeks there’s been quite a bit about on game popping up around the Internet and with good reason, this is a title that not only looks amazing but should appeal to quite a wide audience,

The game’s creators GRIN have previously released Ballistics and are also working on CDV’s Xbox title Vultures, which is still in development, so they’re not exactly newcomers to the gaming scene. BANDITS is set in world torn apart by war and one city has emerged from the ashes, Jericho. All is not well as two factions form. Looting and pillaging sends the city into chaos. Outlawed from the city the unruly occupants are forced to survive in the devastated wasteland world beyond the city walls. The BANDITS begin to hear tales of riches stashed away in the city and greed begins to overcome them, now a fight for survival begins. The story does have Mad Max undertones but who are we to complain, the Mad Max series of films are all time classics.

Any game that involved controlling a vehicle and shooting up your enemies at the same time can be a clumsy affair, getting the controls just right is not easy. GRIN have taken a hard look at what makes shooters so playable and integrated a shooter style control system to work along side the vehicle controls. When you first sit down and put your hand on the mouse it seems a little confusing as the mouse controls where you are aiming and the W, A, S and D keys the vehicle movement. After a couple of minutes at the controls things just sort of slip into place, you really need to avoid thinking you’re playing a shooter and at the same time remember your controlling a highly manoeuvrable vehicle.

The vehicle in the single player mission , called the Badger, was f**ed with a roof turret and front guns so you have a primary and secondary weapon. The turret can be moved independently from the car movements with the use of the mouse. The vehicle moves intelligently so when you swing the turret the car will follow. You can also keep the car moving in one direction and move the turret by holding the SHIFT key. This will allow gamers to shoot at the enemy below or even sit in ambush at strategic points giving a complete overall view.

I’ll admit it took a little getting used to but about half way through the mission the controls became second nature. I was really impressed with the control system.

One reason the controls work so well is partly down to the game’s physics engine. Don’t expect realistic driving conditions, these souped up vehicles can pull off manoeuvres that you wouldn’t see in the real world. The terrain plays an important part in the gameplay with rolling open landscapes and natural obstacles and ridges. You can also expect levels to feel and play differently from each other as the gravity settings will change depending on location which means you’ll need to adjust the way you play to suit the conditions. This also goes for weather conditions, some levels may contain snow or ice which means your vehicle will respond to those conditions by sliding more, moving faster or slower depending on terrain.

There’s a large array of weapons that can be f**ed to the cars but be warned, not every setup will work well in every situation, GRIN are encouraging players to experiment with the different setups. A car config you had 3 missions ago, but abandoned for what you think are better upgrades, might be the best setup the following mission, you’re going to have to experiment. The weapon setup screen is self explanatory really, you choose the vehicle type and the primary and secondary weapons for each vehicle via an easy to use selection interface.

Navigating round the play areas, which incidentally are fairly vast, is done via the radar in the top right of the screen. Enemies show red and objectives show white. Grin are promising a wide variety of missions in the single player to keep the gameplay interesting and fresh throughout. BANDITS won’t just be about blasting everything, for example in one mission we were shown at the show you had to race a gang and if you won you were accepted into their fold. In another mission you had to find an escape route by destroying the Gate Keeper car to open the gate and then make a hasty exit to the escape point. Sound easy? Well be it’s not, BANDITS is tough, it took a few goes just doing this rather simple mission, the AI is pretty decent on the medium setting and your vehicle armour can deplete at an alarming rate. The missions are all presented by dialogue at the bottom of the screen and in-game cutscenes, paying attention to every word is important or you end up driving to the mission point not really knowing what to expect. Not big and not clever.

The crowds packed around the BANDITS booth and with good reason, the game is visually stunning. Building on the Ballistics engine GRIN have bolted on some very snazzy visual effects. The detail on the vehicles was outstanding and with each vehicle also having a damage model and realistic suspension, you are really pulled into the whole experience. The explosions, gunfire and textures looked fantastic, probably some of the most impressive at the show.

One notable point about BANDITS is the game music, it’s superb. Rock undertones and funky sounds played throughout the demo we’ve been playing back at the office. The music not only brings the action to life but also helps capture the harshness of the game world. The sounds were also impressive with booming explosions, roaring car noises and rattling gunfire, everything seems very well executed.

Triple screen action

The game’s multiplayer was on display with 4 machines hooked into deathmatch mode. The setup was fairly impressive as a 3 monitor systems using Matrox’s Parhelia graphics card was installed for a more immersive experience. The popularity of the multiplayer was stressed by the amount of show goers eager to get their grubby paws on the mouse. During a mulitplyer game players can select vehicle types from Light , Medium or Heavy and the host can allow or disallow certain weapons into the game so there’s plenty of room for tweaking games. GRIN are still discussing additional multiplayer modes which, if decided on, will be released in future updates. Like the single player mission we were shown earlier, the mutiplyer was fast, furious and frantic, action fans should lap it up.

For me BANDITS was one of my favorite games of the show, it played great, looked great and kept me on the edge of my seat. With a development team of 14 people working on the game it’s impressive stuff. Bo Anderson, CEO of GRIN, informed us the game had now in fact gone gold and should be popping up in Europe in the not too distant future. This is definitely one to watch

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